What is, “The mustache ride?”


A Daily Double bet on follicular fur

The lost Land of Trebeks, where all of the Alex’s live in harmony. / Kyle Leitch

The lost Land of Trebeks, where all of the Alex’s live in harmony. / Kyle Leitch

Without a doubt, the most fun you can have with popular culture is unearthing its absurdities. Like last week, when TV studio NBC announced that intelligent, Canadian-forever Alex Trebek, long-time host of the game show Jeopardy! had grown back his famous mustache, and would be sporting the fuzz on the Sep. 15 season premiere of the show.

Trebek, who holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Game Show Episodes Hosted by the Same Presenter,” has been clean-shaven since 2001. Immediately following the announcement, news organizations began celebrating, online groups petitioning for the return of the ‘stache collectively lost it, Twitter spawned a handle written by the mustache, and rival TV studios began crapping Lego garages in abject terror.

Ordinarily, a mustache could come and go, and hardly anyone would notice. But, there was something about Alex Trebek’s mustache that people friggin’ loved. Alex Trebek’s mustache had become as synonymous with the man as Tom Selleck and…well, Tom Selleck’s mustache. Poor analogies aside, when Trebek shaved on a whim in 2001, there was a (relatively small) public outcry.

So, when the parent studio announces that one of their personalities, you can practically smell the stench of a public relations agent hard at work. NBC is banking on Alex Trebek’s mustache’s triumphant comeback to bolster waning TV ratings. The great thing about all of this is that it’ll probably work.

Just to contextualize the current situation for you, the average viewing demographic of the show is 64-years-old; however, special editions like The IBM Challenge and Rock ‘n’ Roll Jeopardy! have historically drawn much younger audiences.

On Sep. 15, Jeopardy! will be going head-to-head with Monday Night Football (which has been mired in its own controversies over the past week), WWE Monday Night Raw, and a whole host of family comedies and reality shows. This is, of course, completely ignoring the content on premium channels like HBO, and the content available on streaming services like Hulu and Netflix.

You can bet that anything that can legally be done to attract viewers will be done. Jeopardy!, in its current incarnation, has been on TV for thirty seasons, but with more viewing opportunities available now than ever before, a long and storied broadcast history probably won’t be enough.

Which brings us back to the mustache. According to Nielsen’s Television Ratings system, Jeopardy! averages a 2.7. The ratings hit an all-time high in 2004, with ratings in the low-6 range. The hope of the network is that the return of Mr. Trebek’s mustache will push ratings above long-time rival show Wheel of Fortune, which is consistently in the 3-3.5 range.

That’s a helluva lot of hope to put on a mustache – I’m sorry. “What is, that’s a helluva lot of hope to put on a mustache.” I’m just willing to wager double my earnings that it’s likely going to pay off.

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